I’m lucky. This week, I’m at a Navy veteran’s group to present a well deserved award to one of my Sailors. It’s held in a nice hotel, and the group of veterans are great to hang out with. You’d think everything would be great.
But there are problems, specifically one problem: I’m the youngest person in the group. This veteran’s group, like so many others, is struggling to attract new veteran’s into its membership. Young enlisted Sailors, and especially young officers, just aren’t joining groups like AMVETS, American Legion or the VFW like they have in the past. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s becoming a big concern now as our World War 2, Vietnam Conflict and Korean Conflict veterans are passing away in large numbers. These groups are at risk of disappearing altogether.
SHREVEPORT – Here’s a “feel good” story for you today.
Meet Ray Urban. Ray is a WWII vet who turned 95 on September 4 and he is as full of spunk and vigor as any 25-year old. He has a fondness for skydiving, having trained for the paratroopers during the war until a kidney stone sidelined his dreams.
Ray served as an aircraft mechanic during the war and was stationed in some pretty hostile stations, particularly in the Pacific theatre – places like Espiritu Santo and Bougainville. He survived bombings by the Japanese by digging down in foxholes covered with coconut logs.
When Ray came home after the war, he married, had children, and earned a degree in accounting. He worked as a bookkeeper and as a deputy sheriff.
But Ray never lost his love for jumping out of airplanes; on his 78th birthday he took a jump with Skydive Louisiana. He took another jump at 80, at 85, 90, and on Saturday he jumped again for 95.
Skydive Louisiana is located in Gillam, Louisiana at a tiny “airport” in the middle of a cotton field. A blacktop road turns off a two-lane highway and dead ends alongside a cotton patch where the skydiving operation is run out of a small shed. There are several small, personal aircraft parked in the field and a gliding club (where for a small fee they will take you up in a glider for a very cool ride).
Saturday afternoon, Ray Urban invited a hundred or so family and friends to come out and watch his jump. Ray is a longtime member of the American Legion and the 40 & 8; he has a lot of friends. He bought a case of hot dogs and the family brought a huge cake. The local media turned out in force too, because this jump would make Ray the oldest person in the state of Louisiana to skydive. The national record is 101 years old, a record Ray intends to beat.
As time came for his jump, Ray was as excited and unflappable as he could be. He suited up and marched with confidence to the tiny plane where he would tandem jump with a member of Skydive La. A third jumper went along to record the whole thing from the air.
The little plane took off, leaving family and friends staring skyward for about twenty minutes while the plane gained proper altitude. Soon we saw one chute open – the recorder. Shortly after, a bright red (Ray was a Marine) chute opened and Ray Urban slowly drifted over the cotton fields with a view of the Red River and drifted back to earth. The crowd cheered and cell phone cameras all pointed skyward.
Ray and his jump partner landed right on target to a chorus of cheers and high-fives. At least four media cameras swarmed him and a number of personal photographers, too. The landing looked a little rough as the two tumbled end over end before coming to a stop. By the time the crowd was upon him, Ray Urban sat up with a huge grin on his face. Unscathed and ready to go again, he said, “Y’all come on back in five years for the next one,” and laughed his belly-shaking laugh. “Let’s go get some cake!” he said.
The media wanted their interviews and Ray was happy to accommodate, but then he was ready to get back to the little hangar where he could have a hotdog and a piece of birthday cake with his friends and family.
Ray’s t-shirt that he wore boasted that he was a member of “the greatest generation” and the cap on his head declared his WWII Marine vet status, but the twinkle in his eye and the ear to ear grin, the warm hugs for everyone, and his quick wit and jokes identified him better as a man without peer. He’s got more spunk and energy that five men half his age and I certainly hope I am there for his next jump in five years.
SHREVEPORT – The resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki last week came as no real surprise. It won’t solve the problem but he had to fall on his sword. The VA has been a mess for years and it really isn’t Shinseki’s fault, although certainly he has had time to take steps to bring it around.
This scandal won’t go away as others have, because all America is united in this thought: We care about our military veterans. We’ve asked a great deal of them, and they have a right to expect a great deal from us. Also, everyone in America knows what it’s like to go to a bureaucracy when you’re in need and get jerked around and ignored.
She is more optimistic that I am, but we shall see.
In either case, it is clear that our veterans need help, support, and care. One of my monthly charitable donations is to The Wounded Warrior Project – an organization I’ve been proud to contribute to for several years now. One evening over dinner a friend of ours said, “Why, you don’t need to give money to them; the government takes care of the veterans through the VA!”
Clearly, it doesn’t.
I’m all for doing whatever we can in support of our veterans whether it is through donating to The Wounded Warrior Project, visiting vets at a nursing home, or running across America barefooted to raise awareness.
What? Surely by now you’ve heard about Anna Judd, the young woman who is running across America, from Venice Beach to New York City, to raise awareness of the problems veterans face each day. Anna made a stop in Shreveport this weekend and we had the privilege of meeting her at a Memorial Day service Friday (the traditional date of Memorial Day).
She is a lithe, suntanned little thing with big blue eyes and two blonde braids. She stopped by the local Memorial Day service to show her support for, and to talk to, local veterans. She did a couple of interviews with our local newspaper and radio station and she participated in a couple of events such as a group run across town which ended at the local Veterans Park.
Anna runs about 33 miles per day, she says, and she told The Shreveport Times that the trek has been much more difficult than she first anticipated. She’s lost seven toenails and has had to make visits to the chiropractor after running on Highway 80 which wasn’t level and caused her hips to rock out of joint.
An RV carrying Anna’s mother and her manager follow along and Anna sleeps in the RV (which has no air conditioning – a problem in Louisiana). There’s a Facebook page where you can follow her journey and there is a website as well.
At our Memorial Day ceremony Anna posed for pictures with the Sons of the Confederacy, and with anyone else who wanted a photo, and she visited with Major (Ret.) Ron Chatelain, the most decorated living veteran in the state of Louisiana. Of Mr. Chatelain, Anna wrote:
I had the pleasure of meeting the most decorated Veteran in Louisiana, Ron Chatelain, who had eyes that were some of the clearest and brightest that I have every [sic] seen He offered me words of encouragement so sincere and soft-spoken that every time I opened my mouth to speak to him I could feel my voice get shaky. For the moment that we spoke I felt such a sense of safety and well-being, and I can’t explain why except that some people simply have the power to move mountains with their presence. I will remember him forever.
Will a little girl running across America really help lower our veteran suicide rate and aid those that suffer from PTSD? I don’t know. I really don’t know. But it probably helps more than Shinseki’s resignation; at least this young lady brought awareness to our little burg this week and brought smiles to the faces of some vets.
We all know dealing with the government can be challenging. Anyone who has lived through an IRS audit (4 years in a row) can attest to that. Maybe there was a bit of personal agitation in that statement, but I digress.
I was once enlisted in the Army. I am proud of my service and proud of my Country. I am very proud to call myself an American.
I am not proud of our Veterans Administration.
For slightly more than a decade now we have asked our Soldiers and Sailors to go off and fight the Global War on Terror. They did.
Many of them came back with injuries that will last a lifetime. The obvious injuries, lost limbs, etc. are easily seen. We all want to honor their service and help them come back to a quality of life they deserve. A quality of life all Americans deserve.
What they come back to is having to deal with the VA to help them cope with these injuries, that not all of which can be seen.
Some of these injuries are mental and emotional. Can you imagine the trauma burnt into someone’s brain of having lost an arm? That is traumatic enough.
Let’s add to that loss the fact that it happened when an IED went off.
Let’s add to that trauma the fact that the IED was unseen until it went off.
Let’s add the THAT trauma that the IED that was unseen was hidden on a suburban street corner in some cases.
How hard would it be for you to feel safe driving up to another street corner anytime soon?
I would have issues.
We have all seen the news stories about the LONG waits to even have your case reviewed by the VA much less benefits determined. Those are all over the blogosphere.
What isn’t discussed as much is what the Veterans tell each other about how to deal with the VA so that your claims (especially the PTSD and similar) are taken seriously.
I was talking to a Veteran friend of mine who is recently discharged (I was discharged in 1996 and am not disabled). He, I, and several of his friends were trading emails and something absolutely appalling came across my screen.
How to get the VA to take your claim seriously was the topic. One veteran was giving another veteran advice on what makes the VA move on a case.
Here is the advice:
When you go to your appointment do the following:
Make sure you do not shave for a few days
Don’t bathe that day and perhaps the day before
Wear old worn out clothing
Make sure your shoes are dirty
If you can tolerate it, make sure you smell like body waste…In other words make sure you smell like you peed (or something else) on yourself
This is how Veterans tell each other to deal with our government.
Is this how things should be? Or should Veterans be able to tell each other, oh yeah just fill out the form, see the doctor, and they will do everything they can to help you.
This should not be the experience our Veterans have. Period.
I urge everyone who can to write your Representatives in Washington. DO NOT just say the wait times are bad, although they are. The tragedy here is not the wait time. The tragedy here is the treatment, the customer service if you will, that we give the people who gave us their best.
If you do not know who your Representative is, or need help with the process of contacting them, please drop a comment here, find me (Timothy Imholt) on Facebook, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will do everything I can for these guys who did everything they could for us.
It’s Tuesday and based on yesterday & Sunday our consecutive streak of failing to make our $365 weekly goal is in no danger.
I do promise you if you do hit DaTipJar and help us get to our $365 weekly goal I’ll keep fighting like Mrs. Palin. I’m not as valuable to the conservative movement as her but I’ll continue to do my part.
If 61 of you hit Subscribe at $20 a month subscribers this site will be able to cover its bills for a full year.
1. Anyone want to make book on how long it takes for it to go on ABC, CBS, NBC MSNBC or CNN (only Jake Tapper might use it)
2. Anyone want to make book on how long it will take Harry Reid to bring up the monument bill if this photo gets out?
Update: The embed code of the tweet is not working and messing up the site, the base tweet is here.
I had to use a screen shot instead.
Update 2: Something odd seems to be going on, The tweet seems to not be in the timeline of PinkPatriot anymore but the photo can still be accessed directly online suggesting it hasn’t been pulled. Trying to contact PinkPatriot directly to find out what is going on.
Update 3: It’s getting weirder and slightly funny. Turns out the photo IS still in the timeline but not showing up as photo unless you go to that particular tweet. I tweeted with PinkPatriot and it turns out she saw the photo elsewhere, she thought Before it’s news, as that’s not a reliable source I was about to put out a mea culpa post when I was sent this post from Glen Beck’s site:
Police reportedly arrested several anti-war veterans and other protesters at the Vietnam war memorial in New York City Monday night after they refused to leave the site after the 10 p.m. curfew time. Some of the individuals arrested were reportedly Vietnam veterans, though it was unclear how many arrests were made.
Veterans for Peace and other anti-war protesters gathered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in NYC on Monday night to mark the 12th anniversary of the “invasion and occupation of Afghanistan” and honor the fallen until morning. The Park Service reportedly rejected the group’s permit application to hold their demonstration at the site, but they proceeded anyway.
The photo is in fact from this story, and Pink Patriot incorrectly indicated it was an Obama issue.
So to summarize.
1. The photo is in fact vets being arrested but from a non-federal location
2. The location where they were arrested was in fact open during the day and the arrest took place when they stayed beyond closing.
3. It has nothing to do with the shutdown.
So it’s my bad on this. Was already angry, saw the photo got angrier and rushed to get the post up before picking up my son and didn’t do my due diligence, that’s my fault.
Oh and interestingly enough Pink Patriot Blocked me on twitter after a conversation over the photo. It’s not often I get blocked by a fellow pro-life catholic conservative, but that’s one of the oddities of life.
Still not sure why the embed on her tweet didn’t work but other tweets & photos are working fine.
So it’s my bad, I guess those layers of fact checkers come in handy sometimes after all.
Update 4: I wonder why Pink Patriot might have figured this was from DC? Oh I don’t know maybe stories like this:
Supposedly, on their way out of the park, the tour guide wanted to pull over at a dude ranch inside the perimeter so that the seniors onboard could use the restrooms there — but couldn’t, because the park rangers told the dude ranch that its license would be revoked if they permitted it. So unbelievable is all this, even by the standards of NPS behavior over the past week, that I doubted whether it was true. But there’s corroborating evidence for at least some of it: The tour guide was interviewed by a different newspaper a few days ago and accused the Park Service of — wait for it — “Gestapo tactics.”
Given story after story like this it’s a reasonable mistake.